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Thumb rules must apply to everyone

The likes of VVS and Sourav must look to command their place by virtue of performance. It also goes for Sachin, writes Arjuna Ranatunga.

india Updated: Dec 23, 2005 14:30 IST

Good as Indian spinners are, they appear better on Indian pitches. It has to do with the balls used in home matches as well as the pitches which are not rolled out hard and thus tend to play a bit up and down progressively.

If you win the toss, you avoid batting last which is a major advantage. It makes me wonder if teams really have ever opted to bat second in India in Tests. If they have, the number must be very small.

Local balls too were an issue. It has a pronounced seam and Indian spinners, who hit the deck hard, get a lot out of it by way of bounce. If you look in recent years, men such as Saqlain Mushtaq and John Emburey or Tauseef Ahmed in the past, have tended to do better in India. It is a quality which Muralitharan does not have. He relies on revolutions imparted on the ball and the degrees of spin and his variations.

Whenever he tossed the ball up, the Indians were willing to come down the track. You could not do it against Harbhajan and Kumble. Just for arguments sake, it would be interesting to see how Indian batsmen would stack up against Harbhajan and Kumble on a wearing home pitch. Not many batsmen in world cricket would back themselves against these two spinners in such conditions.

Be that as it may, Indians still were clearly the better side. They have begun to rely on cricketers with multi-dimensional ability. Batsmen can bowl when required and bowlers can bat. Such teams are difficult to get past by and certainly not by somebody like Sri Lanka who only were relying on couple of batsmen and an extraordinary spinner.

There was sufficient exhibition of class from a Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene in the series but both of them never kicked on to produce something substantial. As a batsman, that was criminal. Jayawardene got four half centuries out of five knocks but never kicked on to play a significant innings. It hurt the team, more so because the rest of the batting was not up to the scratch. Besides, a new batsman would always struggle against such quality spinners.

The same goes for Tillekratne Dilshan who had two quality half centuries in Ahmedabad but in terms of impact, it only delayed the inevitable. Simply, not good enough.

The Indians, on the other hand, were able to come out of two tight spots while batting. It were the tailenders who bailed them out on both occasions. Yuvraj Singh is proving a credible influence in the middle order and Irfan Pathan too has come up by leaps and bounds.

Despite a century each from Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman in the series, India's top order looks rusty and out of form. The enigma called Virender Sehwag has not fired either.

India could get away from poor starts against Sri Lanka because the latter lacked the firepower to deliver the killer punch. It would not be the case in Pakistan where their frontline bowlers would keep coming in at the Indian batsmen.

India would have to stand as one against this attack which shares a similar quality of building pressure from both ends. Sri Lanka always struggled in exerting pressure from a pair of bowlers and it proved their undoing.

The Indians also had a virtue which was incomprehensible to the Lankans. By and large, Indians believed in hanging in at all times. They did not try to be flamboyant and overtly aggressive. They relied on being patient and building pressure brick by brick, closing in till they had squeezed the opposition out of contention.

In this hour of victory, Indians would do well to keep a constant vigil on their Test squad. This mix can do with a bit of dash of youth. Frankly, Indians need two young batsmen who can challenge the established lot. Yuvraj Singh has made the transition successfully, or so it seems and Mohammad Kaif must also now do the same.

The likes of VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly must look to command their place by virtue of performance and not past glory. Call it blasphemy or anything you like, it also goes for Sachin Tendulkar. They must not give the impression they are trying to build scores for themselves and not for the team.

If they continue to do so without being checked, it would appear that the Indians are adopting different yardsticks in their approach to one-day and Test cricket. It would be the right message we would like to hear. Thumb rules must apply to everyone.

First Published: Dec 23, 2005 14:30 IST